Westmeath SFC Final
Garrycastle v Mullingar Shamrocks
(Sunday, 3.45pm, Cusack Park )
Reigning champions Garrycastle are worthy favourites, though by no means certs, to retain their crown and complete a four-in-a-row as they take on Mullingar Shamrocks in this year’s county decider on Sunday. Ironically it was the great Shamrocks team of the ‘90s that last managed to complete a four-timer, from ’92 to ’95. No doubt the current Springfield men will do all in their power to stop the green and reds from repeating the feat of their predecessors.
This is of course the third year running that these sides have contested the decider and with the score reading 2-0 in Garrycastle’s favour, Ray Smyth’s men will not be lacking in motivation come Sunday.
It is fair to say that neither side have reached the same level of performance thus far as they did last year which leaves question marks over both sides. Injuries and travel commitments left both sides at less than full strength during the group stages. Garrycastle were without the services of Dessie Dolan, Cathal Mullen, David O Shaughnessy, Seanie O Donoghue and Gary Dolan amongst others at various stages of the championship.
For their part the Mullingar men had to plan without Darragh Daly, Anthony Clinton, and Donie Donoghoe at different times throughout the campaign.
The reigning champs took the shortest route possible to the final having gone through the group stages unbeaten. Shamrocks failed to top their group and needed a replay to overcome the challenge of group toppers St Loman’s in the semi-final. The extra two games could well stand them in good stead come Sunday.
Both management teams have had plenty to ponder ahead of Sunday’s showdown. Paul Clancy who took over from Anthony Cunningham as Garrycastle manager earlier this year has a number of injury concerns. Dessie Dolan who was forced off in their semi-final win over Maryland with a hamstring injury is undoubtedly their biggest concern. Clancy reckons the game will come too soon for Dessie but I will be surprised if the former all-star is not a starter. Gary Dolan has had more than his share of injuries in recent years and his ankle looks like ruling him out once more. Seanie Donoghue is also a doubtful starter as he continues his recovery.
From a Mullingar perspective the continued absence of Darragh Daly deprives them of a top-class midfielder. They have however received a significant boost with news that Donie O Donoghue’s suspension has been overturned and he is free to play on Sunday. This might yet prove crucial as his experience and craft around the middle will be badly needed if Mullingar are to collect their first championship title since 2000.
Clancy has blooded a large number of young Garrycastle players throughout the championship and has plenty of talent at his disposal. Eoin Monaghan is one who springs to mind who has the potential to mark his first senior final with a big performance.
Sean Brennan proved himself a very capable keeper in the absence of Cathal Mullen thus far in the championship but with Mullen now back from his travels and with two league games under his belt his greater experience is likely to see him back between the sticks.
So who will be celebrating come Sunday evening? Presuming that Dessie is passed fit to play then it is hard to look beyond the reigning champs. Their greater firepower gives them a definite edge. Shamrocks don’t have a Dessie or a Paddy Mulvihill and if Ciaran Curley is held, one wonders where their scores will come from. The Castle also know how to win tight games whereas Shamrocks failed to seal the deal when they had the title at their mercy 12 months ago. Either way it should a fascinating final yet again. May the best team win.